Over the weekend, Julien’s hosted its The Collection of Dusty Hill auction – an event that saw the sale of instruments and memorabilia that once belonged to the late ZZ Top bass guitar legend.
A particular highlight from the mammoth auction was the fur-covered Dean Zelinsky bass that Hill used in ZZ Top’s Legs music video – an eye-popping piece of ZZ Top lore that was set at a rather humble auction estimate of $80,000.
However, when the auction rolled around at the weekend, the Legs Dean Zelinsky bass ended up smashing its estimate to pieces after a relatively competitive bidding battle that eventually resulted in the bass selling for a whopping $317,500.
That the guitar ended up selling for more than $300k comes as no surprise, given its provenance and use in the popular ZZ Top video. Featuring alongside an identical electric guitar built for Billy Gibbons, the bass was attached to a rig won by Hill that allowed the guitar to spin.
Spinning rigs aside, the guitar is perhaps most notable for its extravagant fur covering, which was the result of a 3 a.m. phone call between Gibbons and Zelinsky.
As the guitar maker once recalled in a blog post, “One night, I received a 3 a.m. phone call...it's Gibbons. He was on tour in the UK and had the guys from Def Leppard with him. He wanted to hook them up with some Dean guitars.”
But Gibbons also had a very specific cosmetic request for some instruments of his own: “At the very end of the conversation Billy drops the line, ‘I'm sending you some sheepskins I purchased while in Scotland, I want you to put them on some guitars.’
“Weeks later, the sheepskins showed up and I got to work,” Zelinsky went on. “I made a matching pair of Dean Z guitar and bass, painted them white including the fingerboards, painted the Eliminator [ZZ Top's hugely successful 1983 album] logo down the necks and applied the sheepskins.
“I cleared a path down the center with electric horse sheers to accept the pickups, tailpiece and strings. I remember we were still gluing the fur on the tuning keys when the FedEx driver showed up to pick up the guitars. He waited while we boxed them up – they had to make it to the video shoot the very next day.”
The fruits of Zelinsky’s labor helped create one of the most iconic music videos of the 1980s.
The Legs bass was joined on the auction block by Hill’s custom-made Hot Rod car bass from the Eliminator tour cycle, distinctive (obviously) for its custom body shape, which was inspired by the Ford coupe on the album cover. That, and it shot smoke out the tailpipe.
That one sold for slightly less than its minimum estimate of $40,000, and ultimately went for $39,000 after a number of bids.
But the extravagant aesthetics of the above models weren’t enough for either of them to come out on top of the auction lot. Instead, it was Hill’s relatively humble Fender Precision Bass that had the biggest price tag, once again obliterating Julien’s estimate and selling for $393,700.
Naturally, the P-Bass had vintage prestige attached to it (the first-ever model arrived only two years before Hill’s example), but its connection to Hill no doubt tipped it towards the $400k mark. Indeed, it featured on the cover of ZZ Top’s Fandango! album, and was played heavily both on stage and in the studio until its retirement in 2012.
To find out more about The Collection of Dusty Hill, head over to Julien’s.